Stargaze under the McMaster Planetarium dome – Daily News

Catch a show and travel through time and space at the planetarium, a hidden gem in McMaster.

Marvels at Mac follows a student’s point of view, explores the campus, and discovers some of the coolest places students might not know about.


Brandon Bernard is a 5th year communications student. He was also a member of the McMaster men’s basketball team for five years. When not studying or in the field, he sits on McMaster’s Black Student Athlete Council and the Athletics Anti-Racism Advisory Group.

Have you ever sat and stared at the stars on a late summer night? Ask questions or theorize with friends about the vastness of space and all it contains?

There’s a place on campus that can give you the answers.

Located in the basement of the Burke Science Building, the WJ McCallion Planetarium offers shows and experiences for all to enjoy.

When you arrive at the stairs of the planetarium, the lights are dimmed and you encounter posters and photos of space and the stars that captivate you and encourage you to explore them.

This is just the prelude to the experience: when you reach the room at the bottom of the stairs, the real fun begins.

A magnificent dome covers the room which can accommodate just over 35 people. The dome creates acoustics that allow audiences to hear presenters loud and clear without a microphone.

Looking towards the dome, a stunning display of stars and planets that mimic our own universe covers the entire curved ceiling, via a spotlight in the middle of the room.

It really feels like you’re drifting through space with the freedom to go and see what you want.

All of this is made possible through the use of custom software called Stellarium. It allows presenters to go back and forward in time to show the exact positioning of stars on a specific date, showing constellations, planets in our solar system. This software even lets you see upcoming eclipses without the side effects of eye damage!

First introduced in 1949, the planetarium initially used a war parachute suspended from the ceiling as a makeshift dome to house the projector. In 1954 BSB’s custom room was built to better suit the projector. The projector itself has also undergone its fair share of upgrades, changing four times since then. The planetarium is named after William J. McCallion, former dean of what was once the School of Adult Education.

Fun fact: The William J. McCallion Planetarium was the first planetarium in Ontario to offer live entertainment.

Planetarium shows are hosted by graduate students in physics and astronomy. Shows are usually one hour long and begin with a general introduction to the night sky before moving on to a specific theme. These range from an introduction to astronomy to learning how to navigate the night sky, eclipses and more. They also take special requests for specific themes.

This Mac marvel offers shows every Wednesday from 7-8:15 p.m. throughout the school year. Tickets are $7 per person, cash only.

For more information, see the Planetarium website.

Arline J. Mercier